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Kevin was a seventh grader going nowhere fast.
He was ditching school, and when he was at school, he spent more time in detention than in the classroom. He was failing and he didn’t seem to care.
Kevin needed help.
So, Shorecliffs Middle School officials enrolled him in the San Clemente Sunrise Rotary Club's multiple award winning 7th Inning Stretch Middle School Mentoring and Tutoring Program .Within two school quarters, Kevin’s grades went from D’s to A’s.
He not only began to cope with school, but he excelled, becoming the program’s Student of the Year.
Kevin eventually graduated with honors at San Clemente High and recently graduated with honors at Princeton University.
“(The program) totally changed my life,” said Kevin. “I used to get all F’s, but with help from the Rotarians, I turned it around.”
Donald Clinebell, founder and Chair of the program (1995-Present) reports that the program has a long history of heartwarming and often miraculous success stories - not only for the students, but for parents/caregivers and Rotarians themselves.
“The tutors/mentors - role models, success models - are there for these kids because it’s the right thing to do,” said Clinebell. “It’s making a difference in the lives of the kids and their parents, and the tutors/mentors are getting as much out of the program as are the kids.”
Students (and their parent/caregivers) are asked to participate in the program after receiving one or more Fs on a report card and through the use of several variables, said Shorecliffs Principal Kenny Moe. Those variables include low grades, low reading skills, high absenteeism, frequent disciplinary problems, severely dysfunctional home environment, tendency to gang related activity.
Clinebell -- called "Mr. C" by the program kids -- said that the mentors and students talk about the importance of schooling and career, life goals and experiences, about service, and about just about anything the kids need to talk about.
“Sometimes it’s as simple as getting a notebook organized and a pencil sharpened,” said Clinebell. “Other times it’s about the homework itself. And some days it’s about mentoring - talking about the nexus between school, life and career.”
At first, the program was held during the summer. But now Rotarians hold meetings with the seventh graders throughout the school year.
Roughly 25-35 kids take part in the program in any given quarter. There is now a long waiting list for participation in the program. “These are all great kids - kids who need somebody who believes in them and recognizes them when they do good things.”
“This is such a wonderful thing the Rotarians do,” added Moe. “And it’s so effective.”
The program has been so successful, Rotary International has picked it up as one of two model youth programs held out to over 33,000 Rotary Clubs worldwide. The program is a model for many other mentoring/tutoring programs worldwide. In 2001, it won the Golden Bell Award as one of the top community-based educational programs in the state, according to Clinebell.
Clinebell says he and other Rotarians love attending the meetings. Many of the kids in the program participate for 3 years (6th through 8th grades) -- because they so love the program. Many participate long after grades have risen to A's and B's.
“Rotarians are success models - they love giving something back to the community,” Clinebell said.
“The mentoring program is why I wanted to become a Rotarian,” said Nesa Anderson.I do it because I think it’s important for these kids to have adults in the community who care about them. A lot of kids come from troubled homes or don’t have the support they need or a quiet place to do homework.”
“It’s been a great partnership between Rotary and Shorecliffs,” said 24-year Shorecliffs science teacher Paul Sileci.
“I see kids in the community who went through the program all the time. They all tell me to tell the Rotarians they’re doing well and to say hello.”
This is a life-changing program for all."
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